If you haven’t heard, the nationwide tractor parking issue is back in the news. It seems like Congress is always just ready to move some legislation on this issue, then nothing ever happens. While it is true that it would require some bipartisan wrangling, there is no reason why this can’t be an across-the-aisle issue, and it appears that is exactly what is happening.
Reps. Mike Bost (R-IL) and Angie Craig (D-MN) have teamed up to address the issue. Both are members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and on March 9 they jointly introduced H.R. 6104, otherwise blandly known as the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act. The law aims to appropriate hundreds of millions of dollars to projects specifically earmarked to address the truck driver parking issue. Without safe, convenient places to park, truck drivers risk running afoul of hours-of-service.
Industry Groups Approve
Big industry advocacy groups have also weighed in on the issue. Todd Spencer, the president and CEO of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) praised reps Bost and Craig for their efforts. “Congressman Bost and Congresswoman Craig have shown they not only understand truckers are experiencing a crisis, but have the mettle to address it through groundbreaking, bipartisan legislation,” he said in a statement.
The OOIDA has long accused the federal government of ignoring the truck parking issue, even as it has gotten worse over time. While finding a safe place to park is something most people take for granted, it is a critical problem for truck drivers. The fact is truckers don’t want to park on the side of the road. The problem is that sometimes they have no other choice. This creates a hazardous situation for both the truck driver and other road users.
And in a rare moment of solidarity between trucking interest groups, the OOIDA is joined by the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the Truckload Carriers Association, National Association of Small Trucking Companies, and the National Motorists Association. Obviously, all interested parties have a stake in seeing this bill through. Truck parking routinely ranks as one of the top concerns for many industry groups and truck drivers. Might have Congress finally found a way to properly add parking capacity?
The current legislation under review would award funding on a competitive basis. Applicants who want to get in on helping to construct a parking solution would be required to submit a detailed proposal to the DOT by a specified date. The proposals would need to focus on constructing new truck parking facilities, as well as methods for converting existing weigh stations and rest areas into functional parking sites for commercial truck drivers who need a place to rest.
The exact verbiage and summary of the bill, as well as the funding mechanism, have yet to be released. Currently, the text summary of what will be forwarded to congress is available. It states the intent is “to amend title 23, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Transportation to set aside certain funds to provide parking for commercial motor vehicles on the Federal-aid highway system, and for other purposes.”
Technology and Parking
We’ve got an interesting statistic for you. Between 2008 and 2016 the number of large truck registrations in the United States rose by 27.6%. The moral of the story? There are more big rigs out there than ever. The problem is that truck parking capacity at its current levels cannot handle the increase. In nearly every ATRI Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry report, parking ranks at the top of the list of truck driver concerns.
What is worse is that many states grappling with budget issues have closed rest areas or otherwise paired back open times. States from Iowa to Connecticut are considering measures to cut back on or eliminate rest areas at a critical time for the trucking industry.
Some surveys show that over half of all truck drivers report regularly needing to use a commercial truck stop for rest, with another fifth using rest stops. Now here is where it gets interesting, the number of people that reported resting at a shopping center was 11%, abandoned lot or isolated area 10%, and on/off ramp 8%. That represents a large number of truck drivers who are resting in unsafe or inappropriate areas.
Even more, the ELD mandate has created an even greater imperative for truck drivers to have a reasonable place to park. Yet, there is also law enforcement to deal with. Illegally parked commercial motor vehicles also pose a problem for law enforcement officials who don’t want to wake a sleeping truck driver and force them to drive when they are groggy and may be required by law to get that rest. Which is worse, an illegally parked truck or a fatigued truck driver?
A Closer Look at Toll Management
Do you ever look at your fleet’s bottom line and wonder where the money goes? This might be especially true if you are paying too much for toll charges. Make sure you carefully review fines or incorrect truck classifications.
An effective toll management program should cover four basic areas:
- Data: Make sure you consolidate all your data into one place.
- Payments: Are your payments correct and being made on time?
- Accounts: Maintain accurate accounting on toll data and vehicle inventory.
- Shortcuts: Are there ways you can save money on tolls?
Many states and municipalities offer programs to help trucking companies manage the toll environment. There are also companies and third-party vendors to help trucking companies pay for tolls. One such example is Bestpass, which offers a toll management solution for motor carriers and owner-operators.
Most trucking companies already use a fleet management system. There may be ways to integrate existing solutions into your current setup. Vendors generally help with onsite technical support if your initial integration is unsuccessful.
Toll violations are nothing new. And many fleets do not hesitate to take issue with tolls at their local toll agency. Yet you don’t want to just dive head-first into fighting a toll without having all your ducks in a row. It is very important to learn everything you can about the dispute process. Thoroughly review the websites that govern the toll agencies you are disputing the toll with.
Although this work is very manual and time-consuming, it is very important for the process. If there are multiple toll agencies involved, you’ve got to make sure you have all the information on the policies for each individual agency.
One of the big violations that vex trucking companies are those for misclassification. You can expect ever-increasing toll violations by misclassifying your trucks. Imagine if you have many vehicles across your fleet misclassified. You could be looking at hefty fines. The fleet could be exposing itself to penalties for underpaying.
An example of misclassification includes a commercial motor vehicle that is classified as having seven axles when it actually only has five. This simple mistake could result in a higher toll rate and more money shaved off your bottom line. And we are talking about fines that could run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Within many state E-ZPass networks, it is easy to select or enter the wrong tolling classification. Trucks can also become misclassified if a transponder is moved from one vehicle to another and the classification is not changed within the system. It is up to the trucking company to ensure toll classifications are proper for each vehicle in the fleet.
Back Office to the Rescue
When it comes to ensuring everything is correct, you’ll find your back-office accounting department comes through more often than not. The key is to handle accounting on a per-truck basis. Only the trucks can generate revenue or incur expense within whatever accounting software your back-office is using. This means you should not be able to “charge” for a trailer in your accounting system.
The accounting team can usually take fees and discounts into account. Every tolling authority offers their own special rules for how fees or discounts should be parsed out. Whether it is a factor of the volume of trucks, peak times, or volume by dollar amount.
There are yet other cases where a transponder is charged a fee only if that transponder was tracked in a certain state for a particular time during the calendar month. Knowing what these parameters are can save your fleet a lot of money. Depending on the size of your fleet, toll-management can be a full-time job. Never hesitate to seek our partners or third-party vendors that can make your life a lot easier.